Wednesday, May 13, 2015

FIRST wins $25,000 to benefit Junior STEAM Ahead

With a $25,000 grant on the line and with judges voting in real time, five nonprofit organizations made their final three-minute pitches to members and guests of the Entrepreneurs Foundation of New Hampshire (EFNH) during the EFNH AMP NH Award Competition last night at Dyn in Manchester. EFNH members and guests voted for nonprofit projects based on anticipated “amplified benefits” for the organizations and communities they serve. FIRST of Manchester, which provides innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in the STEM fields, received the most votes to win the $25,000 grant.

EFNH, an initiative of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, channels the expertise, energy and passion of the state’s leading entrepreneurs to strengthen New Hampshire communities through innovative philanthropy.

“I love that we are showcasing a different way to do philanthropy,” said Mary Jo Brown, president of Brown & Company Design and an EFNH member. “The shared learning that happens between the nonprofits and the entrepreneurs is good for New Hampshire. We are building connections between those two sectors in a meaningful way that will be long-lasting.”

With the $25,000 grant, FIRST will expand its FIRST Jr. STEAM Ahead program to seven Manchester elementary schools in an effort to increase interest in STEM education and careers. The program partners students with mentors from local businesses and introduces them to real-world engineering challenges by building LEGO-based robots to complete tasks. Currently, U.S. First offers the program to 250 fourth graders in Manchester’s Beech, Jewett and Green Acres Elementary Schools. Over the next two years, FIRST hopes to serve all 14 Manchester elementary schools, reaching more than 1,000 students.

Dan Hughes (third from right), FIRST  Junior STEAM Ahead advisor,
stands with the other pitch finalists when the winner is announced.
“This program is all about providing access to opportunity,” said Dan Hughes, a FIRST volunteer and technical advisor for this Manchester pilot project. “Through these activities, through the connections with mentors, these kids are opening their minds to possibilities. It gets them thinking ‘Maybe I want to do this when I’m older.’”

During an EFNH nonprofit pitch event in Portsmouth on April 30, Community Toolbox, Inc. of Portsmouth, which uses volunteer labor to provide critical home repair to low- or fix-income homeowners, won a $25,000 grant. EFNH will host its final pitch event this spring in Hanover on Thursday, May 21, at DEN. At each competition, EFNH members award a $25,000 grant to a nonprofit.

Since 2011, 63 nonprofit organizations have participated in pitch camps and AMP Awards Competitions with EFNH. When the three grants are awarded this spring, 13 organizations will have received grants from EFNH totaling $210,000.

Dan Hughes and Steve Messa, FIRST Junior STEAM mentor,
celebrate their achievement with a selfie.
To prepare for the AMP NH Award competitions, finalists were paired with EFNH mentors, who worked one-on-one with nonprofits to help craft engaging and persuasive pitches. Finalists took part in “pitch camps” prior to the final event to help put the finishing touches on their pitches.

“This really is a unique event that brings nonprofits and thought leaders from the private sector and philanthropic circles together,” said Evan Karatzas, a pitch camp mentor and founder of Proximity Lab. “There is no other event that delivers so much value to participants in such a concentrated and efficient way.”

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